February 6, 2023

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In Phoenix, a Taiwanese chip giant is building a hedge against China

In Phoenix, a Taiwanese chip giant is building a hedge against China

Former President Donald J. Trump and officials in the Biden administration have now pushed for measures to encourage chipmakers both foreign and domestic to build more factories in the United States. Democrats and Republicans, stung by recent chip shortages, agreed in July to A $52 ​​billion support package In CHIPS Act and science in order to increase the cost of building such plants.

Chipmakers responded with announcements of major factory projects, including by Intel in OhioMicron Technology in New York and Samsung Electronics in Texas. But the hottest product these days is TSMC, whose founder, Maurice Chang, pioneered the chip-making concept in 1987 for other companies designing it.

TSMC is by far the world’s largest “foundry,” as the industry calls such services, and has recently boasted of cutting-edge manufacturing technology. Besides Apple, its big customers include Amazon, Qualcomm, Nvidia, and Advanced Micro Devices.

These companies have not publicly expressed concerns about the concentration of chip manufacturing in Taiwan, which faces risks linked to earthquakes and Drought In addition to the claims of China. But the presence of top executives from several companies at Tuesday’s event indicated strong support for having more key ingredients for their products manufactured closer to home.

The Phoenix expansion plan shows that customer pressure is having a bigger impact on TSMC, which has long argued that concentrating production at Taiwan giant Gigavaps was the most efficient, industry analysts and executives said.

TSMC softened this position somewhat in 2020 by agreeing to Factory opened in Phoenix. But the company has set a limit on the level of production technology in the factory, which is assessed by measuring how small a company can make key parts from individual transistors on a chip. The smaller those dimensions — measured in nanometers, or billionths of a meter — more transistors can be packed onto a piece of silicon.

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The company originally set the technology level at the Phoenix site at five nanometers. That was ahead of most chips in 2020, but behind what TSMC will produce in Taiwan in 2024, when the US factory is about to open. The new plan will upgrade the factory to use four-nanometer technology, which Apple was the first to adopt. TSMC said the second plant, which is expected to start operating in 2026, will be capable of producing three-nanometer chips.